Saturday, May 12, 2007


Radio was quite big in my home as a child since we didn't have a TV until I was well into my teens - a fact which often bemuses producers and others that I work with nowadays. I remember my grandmother in Wigan had a huge radio on her sideboard that was always tuned ready for 'Waggoner's Walk'. When her programme came on, she sat in front of the radio and listened.

I don't remember missing out by not having TV - although in one lesson at school we were asked what our favourite programme was and I sat anxiously wondering what I could say. It didn't matter anyway because the first child said 'Starsky and Hutch' and so did the next and the next and the next. So when it came to me I just said 'Starsky and Hutch' and hoped I was pronouncing the title correctly because I hadn't a clue what it was.

Later on when we did have a TV - viewing was carefully regulated by my mother (who now doesn't have a TV at all.) After 7.30pm TV watching was over. I don't know whether they had the watershed but my mum's cut off time was well before it! I remember standing in my pyjamas peeking through a central heating grill half way up the stairs trying to watch the end of 'Z Cars'.

Now here with satellite DSTV there are over a hundred channels - more to choose but less choice (of anything that I really want to see.) When I first moved to these shores, I watched Eastenders probably more avidly than I had in the UK. The characters and storylines were familiar compared to those in the local soaps. Also Eastenders had a regular early evening timeslot and was pretty much synchronous with the UK transmissions. Last year they suddenly revised the schedules and lumped Eastenders into an omnibus edition on Sundays. In a family - even with a split decoder - TV watching is often about bagging your programme ahead of others - ahead of the children's TV and ahead of the sports or news. So for me, Sunday afternoon was out. BBC Prime is still my channel of choice - despite being crammed with lifestyle/makeover programmes fronted by curious hermaphoditic presenters with plastic spectacles and names that are either monosyllabic or double barrelled.

In this household, local stations are 'must see' mainly for news or local sports. The main broadcaster SABC attracts the greatest share of the South African audience - mainly because it is free-to-air. The vast portion of the population does not have access to anything other than terrestrial TV, if that. Radio has a wider reach particularly in the rural areas. In the townships there are often up to 30 people in a room - all watching a popular local TV drama such as 'Home Affairs'.

snip: this rather rambling post has been cut. I'll write more about the local broadcaster in a separate post


Anna said...

Not a rambling post at all. I enjoyed reading it as it brought back similar memories. We always owned a TV but my parents practically pad-locked the thing - restricting us to about an hour a week when we were very young and then to maybe half an hour after dinner. I also rarely had a clue what kids were talking about regarding tv shows. I too faked it!

Far away said...

Hello again and thanks Anna!

Pity really that as children we always want to fit in - despite the best efforts of parents.